Michael Richards, Seinfeld’s Kramer, Racist Tirade Video

TMZ has a very blurry video of what purports to be Michael Richards launching a bizarre, racist tirade at a black member of his audience.

Richards, who played the wacky Cosmo Kramer on the hit TV show “Seinfeld,” appeared onstage at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood. Kyle Doss, an African-American, told TMZ he and some friends were in the cheap seats and he was playfully heckling Richards when suddenly, the comedian lost it.

The camera started rolling just as Richards began his attack, screaming at one of the men, “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass.” Richards continued, “You can talk, you can talk, you’re brave now motherf**ker. Throw his ass out. He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! He’s a nigger! A nigger, look, there’s a nigger!”

The crowd is visibly and audibly confused and upset. Richards responds by saying, “They’re going to arrest me for calling a black man a nigger.”

One of the men who was the object of Richard’s tirade was outraged, shouting back “That’s un-f***ing called for, ain’t necessary.”

After the three-minute tirade, it appears the majority of the audience members got up and left in disgust.

One would think.

Here’s the video:

Michael Richards at the Laugh Factory

Even compared to the infamous Mel Gibson rant, this is quite inexplicable.

Update: Shakespeare’s Sister writes, “I’ll never be able to watch an episode of Seinfeld again without thinking about that loathsome tirade—and I certainly won’t be completing my collection of the series on the DVD, lest another penny of my money end up in his pocket.” I’m generally able to compartmentalize my views of performers’ personal lives and their entertainment value; otherwise, I would be boycotting most of Hollywood. (I won’t be buying the Seinfeld DVD’s, either, but then I wasn’t before this.)

She links an interesting CNN report on the incident at YouTube which, interestingly, does not allow embedding but works at the moment on the site. Richards is back at work at the comedy club, it seems.

Meanwhile, Pajama Media’s Tel Aviv correspondent quips, “[I]t’s not like his career can afford to take the hit. But who knows? Maybe Mel Gibson has a part for him in his next movie.”

A pretty good discussion is going on in the comments sections at both Althouse and Unfogged, too.

UPDATE: Richards offered a lame apology on Letterman.

He called two black hecklers the “n-word” and enthusiastically referenced a time when blacks were often victims of civil rights abuses, but Michael Richards said his verbal barrage during a stand-up routine was fueled by anger and not bigotry. “For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry,” the former “Seinfeld” co-star said during a satellite appearance for David Letterman’s “Late Show” in New York. “I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this,” Richards said, his tone becoming angry and frustrated as he defended himself. Richards described himself as going into “a rage” over the two audience members who interrupted his act Friday at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood.

His explanation was reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s assertion that he wasn’t anti-Semitic after he let off a barrage of Jewish slurs during a traffic stop last summer: despite what came out of his mouth, that’s not what is inside him.

Industry colleagues were in no hurry to accept Richards’ apology.

“Once the word comes out of your mouth and you don’t happen to be African-American, then you have a whole lot of explaining,” comedian Paul Rodriguez, who was at the Laugh Factory during Richards’ performance, told CNN. “Freedom of speech has its limitations and I think Michael Richards found those limitations.”

Veteran publicist Michael Levine, whose clients have included comedians George Carlin, Sam Kinison and
Rodney Dangerfield, called Richards’ remarks inexcusable. Comics often face hecklers without losing their cool, he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Levine said Monday. “I think it’s a career ruiner for him. … It’s going to be a long road back for him, if at all.”

It’s ironic that Sam Kinison’s former publicist is outraged by this, as Kinison’s entire act was over-the-top misogyny. And I disagree with Rodriguez that the use of the “N-word” exceeds the boundaries of permissible free speech.

Still, speech has social consequences and Levine is likely right that this will cause substantial damage to Richards’ career.

Gone Hollywood

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Popular Culture, Race and Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I blame Pelosi.

  2. M. Murcek says:

    All the reportage makes it sounds like the audience got turned off pretty quick, but there was chuckling from the audience going on pretty far into it…

  3. floyd says:

    proof once again that “all social structures are at their roots systems of coercion and domination”[fc]. the pavlovian response to a particular stimulus, beat into social consciousness, denies even the possibility of seeing events as they transpire before our eyes.

  4. LJD says:

    Or if you prefer, in English:

    Make all the fun you want about minorities, women, people with disabilities…
    ..if you’re Chappelle, Mencia, or that not really funny female standup.

    Just don’t do it if you’re a white guy. I do not stand in defense of Cramer- I thought Seinfeld was an annoying show (those NYC crackers)! But where are all the left wing advocates for ‘free speech’? Well, I guess you didn’t support the printing of Muslim cartoons much either.

    PC will be the end of us all.

    The N WORD (ooohh) is just a word. Just like F-er, it can be used to back up violence, or it can be used to rib your friends, or in comedy. I didn’t see this guy say we all should go out in the parking lot and lynch us some (N word)s right now.

    Who really expects to go to a comedy show and not get picked on?

  5. James Joyner says:

    LJD: The problem is that Richards was not doing an unfunny comedy routine but ranting at hecklers.

  6. LJD says:

    The qualifier was whether or not it was funny?

    I don’t pretend to agree with his ridiculous over-reaction. Maybe he couldn’t cognate a witty comeback, or was simply pissed… Certainly a stupid way to go, that in other venues could get you butt kicked.

    But what part of the heckler’s behavior demonstrated that he was not as described? What made him think he could add his commentary for all other members of the paying audience? Likely the appropriate response would have been an escort from the theater.

    However, I only point out that Kramer was attacking THIS N-er, not saying all black people are N-ers. Again, it was dumb and the slavery references clearly went into forbidden ground. (Although none of the audience are or were slaves, nor do they know anyone who was ever a slave).

    My main idea was to juxtaposition the material being used by other comedians and this. There are jerks of all races.

  7. LJD says:

    I would also like to ask what were the damages here? If you’re offended, you leave the show and don’t spend your money on his work anymore. The end.

    It seems like a small thing when American men and women of all races stand side by side against Islamists who murder people because of their faith.

  8. TimC says:

    Sam Kenison? I always wanted to put a Sam Kenison tape into Teddy Ruxpen.

  9. Brandon says:

    Wow you guys are some ignorant Mother F’ers. This has nothing to do with comedy. Yes the guy was “talking” during his show. So does that give him the right to freak out and start yelling racist slurs at the guy? Not at all.

  10. Michael age 21/ black and italian just in case you think i'm older says:

    It is comical that all who give their opinions really don’t know the scenerio. Whatever idiot said that people in the audience didn’t know any slaves must be miss cleo. If you can tell people who they know, or will know in their lifetime, then I should call you for advice. It is funny that white people always have their dumb fcking comments about things when it is none of their business in the first place. Obviously mr. kramer is jewish, now let’s think about that for a minute. Jewish….. Halocaust(or however you spell it) things like that shouldn’t take enough care to spell anyway. 50 years 70 years ago they would of had his ass hanging buried under the ground with a fork in his ass. Now for the white people that have their unecessary comments, just think about saying some of the things that you say on paper, then say it to a black person’s face, and see if you feel the same way after.

  11. Anderson says:

    just in case you think i’m older

    Nope, that certainly didn’t occur to me. Younger, maybe.

  12. d man says:

    When black people ridiculed me and called me cracker, I didn’t cry. The news bleeps out the racial slurs toward the black man, but not the racial slur from the black man.

  13. d man says:

    black people walk around my town day in and day out, talking crap about people. And the difference between them and me is this. If i crossed a black mans path in a dark alley and he called me a f ing cr.ker, I would walk away. But if i called him an f ing n gger, he would probably attack me. Words, just shut the f up and live your own life and take care of your family and respect people who deserve it. If something gets in the way of that then deal with it appropiatly. Don’t harm someone because they say something to you. I know this, the racism i see with whites are in the form of slurs, the racism i see in blacks are actions.

  14. Bandit says:

    So does that give him the right to freak out and start yelling racist slurs at the guy?

    Yuh-huh – in this country he has that right.

  15. Chris says:

    As far as I’m concerned, carrying on like an asshole in a movie theater by talking on your phone or having a conversation at a volume that competes with a stage performer defines nigger behavior. The same way that going to a country bar and beating a guy up for not liking Dale Earnhart makes you a redneck. Don’t act out the sterotype if you want to avoid being labeled.

  16. Nina says:

    Some of these comments ARE completely ignorant. I am a proud black woman. I hope for some of you that do not understand this will clear things up for you.

    The “N” word IS NOT JUST A WORD. I’m sure everyone on this planet knows about slavery and our struggles. Some black people choose to call each other by the “N” word, personally I don’t. But what you all have to understand is if I called a white man a cracker and he called me by the “N” word, it’s not the same. The “N” word carries ALOT more meaning and is very hurtful to us as a people. I would rather be called a cracker than a nigga. I am so sick of hearing how we are “violent”. PEOPLE ARE VIOLENT, regardless of race. I have never been in any violent situations but people still treat me like it. I have been called by the “N” word to my face and never put my hands on anyone. But no matter what I’m black so I’M violent. Why is that? It’s like no matter how much we try to do better and try to live right we are always looked at as violent N*ggas. Ask yourself this… If you were called a cracker what would it make you think of? Now think if you were black and someone called you the “N” word what would u think of? DO YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE?? IF NOT THEN GOD HELP YOU!

  17. JT says:

    Yes, the ‘N’ word does hold more of an insult than most any racial slur. But don’t forget that Richards grew up in a time where that sort of thing was more common than today. He’s 57 years old incase you didn’t know. Besides, his carrer was over anyway. I say, cudos for going out with a BANG!!!

    Come on Tom Arnold, you’re up next! HAHAHAHA!

  18. charly manson says:

    I don’t understand this discussion. Black ppl call themselves N`s all the time why can’t a white man call an afro-american a N? You black ppl take yourself and you history way to seriously. learn to laugh about your selves. in the end we are all Americans and fight against Islam. so, lets not behave like kids here.

  19. Jon says:

    I think this is incredible. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a black comedian say “cracker” I’d be a millionaire. Am I defending racism? No, I think it’s disgusting. But I think people should be treated as equals. If blacks aren’t going to be in trouble for attacking white people then whites should get to say whatever they want as well. I agree that the comment wasn’t funny and was uncalled for. But one guy in the crowd called Richards a “cracker ass mother——” and there’s no problem with that. Interesting that the n-word is so offensive but racial slurs about whites are perfectly okay.

  20. floyd says:

    nina; “”{Ask yourself this… If you were called a cracker what would it make you think of?}”” what it makes me think of is my heritage. To be called a “cracker” when noone that was related to me has ever held slaves, or even forced labor from anyone, is deeply insulting. At any rate I owe no man anything but to love him. Deference should be based on the content of character.What happened to our ancestors is history. My great grandmother didn’t ask me to hold a grudge, and she was “crow” indian [a derogatory term for a proud people who called themselves the “BIRD PEOPLE”.]

  21. Brian J says:

    I agree that his ranting was definately uncalled for. A more appropriate action from him would have been to ask club security to remove the people that were ruining the show. I think that he knows he is at the end of his career and is a wash up. I think he just became frustrated, lost it, lashed out, and these are the results.

    What everyone needs to understand is that we all experience different things in our life and our upbringing that mold our thoughts and feelings into what they are today. I think that actions should be taken from all of us to get away from focusing on stereotyping and racial differences. The one thing we should focus on more is understanding each other. Or else, we will be lost forever.

    I often wonder why it is ok for black people to call themselves the N-WORD. If it is so offensive to a black person, why would you want to offend each other in this way? Is it a way to relate? Who knows? The fact is that we all think differently so we must “all” be crazy.

  22. Mac says:

    If you don’t want to be labeled with stereotypical terms…..don’t exhibit stereotypical behavior.

    Get a grasp on reality—It’s not about skin color it’s about behavior.

    Richards is not much of an entertainer & I wouldn’t pay to see him. But if I did, I sure as Heaven wouldn’t want to listen to some loudmouth in the crowd interrupting the show.

  23. Alyson says:

    I would be interested to see the ages and socioeconomic status of all those posting messages on this board. As a white Canadian female with native heritage and a black boyfriend, I find it incredible that such hatred for different races still exist. In my university psychology career I have heard of hundreds of studies that discount 99% of all stereotypes based on race. That is STEREOTYPES that form RACIST ideas, are FALSE. Also, I’d like to inform you all that people often find more similar genetic compositions between races (Asian, African-American, Native etc) than they do within them. This tells us that no one races is at a genetically pre-disposed advance or oppression. What it does tell us is that our IDEAS about other races are ethnocentric (see our ethnicity as primary) and completely SOCIALLY constructed. This means that WE HAVE THE POWER TO ELIMINATE RACISM (because we construct our social world)……now that you have no basis for your racist ideas, shall we continue our lives??

  24. David Warangel says:

    It may be racism, it may also be Richards just plan being an incredibly vicious asshole in a pissing match, who went ballistic and really took being heckled personally and thus, sought to hurt the hecklers in a vicious, demeaning, emotionally hurtful manner, ie. utilizing racist terms and historical references.

    We do construct our world, as far as making choices, including choices not to knee jerk jump to the most sensational, damning puritan, immediately condeming and branding a person as racist, ie. the term for deviant in this day.

    We do have the choice to consider other explanations and the intelligent sophistication of knowing that there are many shades of error, that are still error, it’s not knee jerk between either – ha, he’s a racist … sinner, damn him or what, I see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil.

    One way or another – racist or egregious viciousness – Richards still looks bad, but in the later, should not yet be condemned to wearing a scarlet “R” in hell.

  25. Johneequa Behrendorf says:

    I’m a black woman that used to be a man. I also used to be white. So I know first hand all sides of this perpetual controversy. I wish everyone could just spend one day as a black woman so they could also experience the verbal and physical assaults I get on a daily basis from white jewish men at starbucks. I’m sick and tired of it…but I will live in fear no more! and they will not keep me from going to starbucks.

  26. Baby says:

    It is appalling to think that many of you do not understand “connotation”. The N word is very charged. It is a word that was given to black folks to address them as less than humans. It was given to make them feel invisible. I think that his comments go deeper than just the N word. He went on to say that you get called the N word for interrupting a white man and years ago you would have been hung with a fork up your a*s for this behavior. He was really demeaning beyond just the simple use of the N word.

    Today many young and hip-hop blacks use the word, which constitutes a small group within a large population. (Not every black person in the world). It is a cultural thing for the population that use it. It seems as though they have taken ownership of the negative word and spun it around to not be uplifting when talking to each other. They are usually not saying “Nigg** you need to be hanging from a tree.” Also they see a huge difference between Nig**r and Nigga.

    Let’s just be cognizant of everyone. After all we are all human and by the way I do not support hate at all.

  27. LJD says:

    Interesting how some can take innocent comments as racism. I guess it is a sign of how thin-skinned we have become. It IS time to stop the divisiveness and be one people- Americans.

    I can think of nothing more divisive than the term African American. Whether or not you are from the Carribbean, or the EU, or sixth generation American. It’s as if We The People owe you twice as many syllables, whether your ancestors actually were slaves, or you came here in 1989.

    I judge a man (or woman) by their character, not their skin color. SOME Black Americans just don’t get this, and I’m not sure anything can be done to end their culture of blame. It reminds me of the touchy caveman on the Geico commercials, always offended. Look at Jesse Jackson travelling around from outrage to outrage. He ought to be preaching forgiveness. You ARE what you ARE, regardless of what some ignorant person calls you.

    Looking at the famine, war, and disease in Africa, I would be damn proud to live in the most free and wealthy country in the world.

    And before you cast judgement on me, I grew up an urban white minority. I lived in the LBC during the LA riots when Reginald Denny was brutally attacked for the color of his skin. I moved around, but had many black friends in my travels- good men and women. I served honorably in the Army, next to, above, and under blacks. Some I held the highest respect for. Others, like some of their white counterparts, were somewhat less respectable, but at least stepped up to serve their country.

    There is no ‘more equal’, just equal. Time to stop listening to Jackson and Sharpton, and start listening to Cosby.

  28. KST says:

    “black people walk around my town day in and day out, talking crap about people. And the difference between them and me is this. If i crossed a black mans path in a dark alley and he called me a f ing cr.ker, I would walk away. But if i called him an f ing n gger, he would probably attack me. Words, just shut the f up… I know this, the racism i see with whites are in the form of slurs, the racism i see in blacks are actions.”
    U don’t know a damn thing! Really… you must have missed the lynching, dog bitting, water spraying, woman raping, academic denyiny, unjustly incarcerated, scene altogether. Take off ya blinders and get a history book pal. Oh wait we forgot about the white guys in Texas that what 6 yrs ago chained a black man to a truck and dragged him till he was decapitated… or the innocent black African shot at 40 someting times bye white police officers in NY for reaching in his pocket to get his ID (um he was a suspect cuz he fit a profile… you know they all look alike…right *smirk* or how about the African who the white police officers shoved a broomstick in his rectum to the point that he has a bag on his hip-for life. Whites aren’t violent in their racism? What world do you live in? The white people in this country started this whole institutional race issue, and it caused the inequitable distribution of mad wealth and social repression… payback is mo’fo and its bittin you all in the azz! Now it’s … oh lil black people just get over it, we aren’t violent towards you so just go on dude..” When will people like u wake up and smell the bacon…damn it’s burnt and the grease is burnin’!

  29. Mike says:

    Slavery took place over 150 years ago. There isnt a single person alive today that can claim that slavery has affected their life personally. For anyone to make a claim that slavery was “their struggle” TODAY they are just bringing themselves down to where true racist people want them to be. They want people to have a low expectation of themselves. That is when they have truly defeated you.

    The way to better yourself is to rise up against it. You do that NOT by getting upset when someone says nigger if your black or redneck if your white or any other “racial” slur used today. You do that by teaching the people around you that words are meaningless unless backed up by actions. What Michaels Richards did was stupid at best but doesn’t mean he’s a racist.

    I have friends of all nationalities and have discussed this very thing with all of them on many occasions. Words are just words and words never held ANY MAN DOWN! In today’s society everyone is free to make something of themselves. Of course there is always the exception but if any person out there truly believes that they know someone who doesnt have the same chances in life as others do…then instead of running around babbling about how the world is evil and racist…HELP YOUR FELLOW BROTHER OUT.

    Black or White we are all in this together. The sooner we stop making excuses for our short comings in life the sooner we will find that with hard work and dedication you CAN pull yourself up and be somebody.

  30. Sandra says:

    Some people were offended, I understand that. Try living in NYC Bronx, Co-Op City being one of the very few white families – not a good place to be if you are sensitive to name calling due to color. As for bringing up slavery every second, well, the Irish were slaves, the English were slaves, thousands in N Korea are being slaughtered, Somalia, Sudan, thousands of Irish killed, starved to death in the last few hundred years. Babies used for sex all over the world. Get a grip. White farmers slaughtered in Africa, a life is a life whether you agree with that person’s country’s politics or not. I’ve been called a white piece of s**t on the bus with my husband because he bumped into a black teenager while we were getting off (he’s a big guy and the bus was packed) I see it all the time here. Works both ways. This one just got a lot of publicity and the guy is famous. Wasn’t a nice thing to say, because the audience were paying him to perform, and he had as much disrespect for those guys as a lot of other Americans do for each other. maybe we should be looking at ourselves as an intolerant nation, only we are tolerant on TV usually.

  31. Al Jaffee says:

    Richards has always been a little messed up. Remember when he appeared on letterman years ago with the rest of the Seinfeld group promoting the complete dvd series. Letterman was trying to get him to be funny like he did with an aging jerry lewis (who humored him with one of his famous funny jerry fits ) but Richards was purposely serious each time on Letterman and would brush off attempts at humor –I think he believes he is some sort of “artist”. Listen you jackass you are a nightclub hack comedian that had a break playing a nut on Seinfeld and thats it! dude! I saw dan ackroyd here in Toronto in 1995 when he was filming a movie at the University of Toronto at lash miller chemical labs. Same thing: the way he treated the crew and his attitude was really bad. He was like a punk you might run into on the street all angry stares and swearing, ugh. I think alot of these comedians are just messed up guys inside.

  32. Peace says:

    Why do people think every black person accepts and/or uses the n-word?

  33. Martin Feinsan says:

    I’m not sure if Michael Richards is Jewish, but if he is – you really have to commend the Jewish people for being consistent in their feelings here and previously with Mel Gibson.

    In my opinion, with Iraq, a new Congress,Muslim extremists, nuclear weapons, pedophiles, murderers, illegal aliens, and more – I have enough to worry about without worrying or caring if Kramer used the “N” word. Beyond those 3 guys, isn’t everyone like me: TOO BUSY TO GIVE A SH*T”?

  34. TF says:

    Yeah, like Mike said slavery’s old news – it’s not like Jim Crow is still hangin’ around. I mean at least since the Civil Rights/Voting Rights Acts in the 1960s blacks have had the right to vote & with police escort could enter “white” schools. Seriously, just because James Meredith needed a couple hundred troops in 1962 to enter a racially integrated high school, that doesn’t mean that slavery/Jim Crow has any lasting impact on anyone’s life or history, does it? Of course it does. To the “Mikes” of the world – free yourself from your ignorant bigotry and educate yourself on the history of slavery and Jim Crow.

  35. Baby says:

    You know what???? If you think that Blacks are blowing things out of proportion goggle James Bird-Texas, The American Black Farmers Press 2006 or more overtly take a look at your local police force and see how many Blacks are on it. See how many of those Black receive promotions and how many Black applicants were denied. Then post your nonsense about the color of your skin and how it does not matter in America.

    I don’t think that Black people are asking for pitty. I think that they feel that the those who wear a back pack of privilege should just think for a minute where would they be and who would they be if they were born with dark skin.

    Something to make you go hum?????????

  36. G says:

    Michael richards is NOT JEWISH.
    Look it up.

  37. bobzahudamunni says:

    Oooh a guy said some words, let’s all stop what we’re doing and get upset about it!
    It’s America, we’re free here(sort of), you want to cast a vote on this one, stop buying seinfeld DVD’s! Worst case scenario, America’s IQ goes up a few points. If you’re just trying to make the world a better place, the overpopulation problem is a good place to start, jump off a bridge.

  38. d man says:

    KST you are an idiot! I wrote something about what i see with my eyes in my town, not on tv, and you argue with that part. The only people i see being physical in this race crap are blacks. point blank. Does that mean a white person has not been violent in the same way,no. but not anyone i know that is white has, or any white around me.% But you know, when people do racialy motivated violence to whites, they give it little air time.

  39. d man says:

    Hey KST. I did miss the lynchings. I’m 28 yrs. old. I didn’t catch any of it, did you, were you around, maybe. So i deserve no recompense.
    But, one of my now dead reletives died while fighting to free black people back in the 1800’s, i think you all owe me some repirations for that!

    If a large woman hurts my feelings and i lash out at her i may call her a fat bitch! I do not think i am any better than women or fat people. That outburst does not point at any inner hatred toward obese people or woman. I was just mad at her and called her what i knew would either hurt her feelings or make her mad.
    Or, you f,ing trailer trash bastard! I have nothing against trailor people. Or people without dady’s. I just was mad or my feelings were hurt so i lashed out in a way that i knew would have a common result with him.
    I may be sorry for calling you an idiot if i knew you KST, that is the best i can do. Anything more would be a lie.